Salmo Mt. Lookout

It was late September 2021 and I was driving around Salmo-Priest Wilderness, basic plan was to locate this remote lookout tower. It’s at an altitude of over 6000 Ft, and expected be right around the intersection of Washington, Idaho and Canadian wilderness. Path leading to the tower was rated white-knuckle grade by this book on Wild Roads, so obviously caught my curiosity. Lady GPS who usually guides me was a bit lost, so had to use a map and chase Forest Road markers to identify that last section of the climb.

Entrance to this last leg of the route was flanked by overgrown shrubs, even though less trodden the road itself looked real. But, few miles into it I encountered that familiar feel of vehicle slipping sideways. Road itself was quite weathered, otherwise a Wrangler with high clearance and 35” tires wouldn’t lose traction. But once 4WD was engaged it was smooth sailing. Reaching the top, the Jeep and I were greeted with some thrilling hail and snow. This was definitely among those exquisite PNW moments.

Often my approach is to try and explore relatively risky back roads on Jeep before attempting on a motorcycle. But on hindsight, even on a capable machine like Wrangler, this particular road felt a tad unsafe. In general even moderately rugged forest roads could be dicier than difficult 4×4 trails. Because when nature weathers the terrain, it does in unexpected ways, while dedicated 4×4 trails are maintained and hence predictable. But, this risky attempt also gifted a rather remarkable experience. Standing at high altitude with near freezing temperatures, and with both international and state boundaries on the horizon, it was silence and splendid views all around. Finally climbed back into the Jeep, only to hear the rumbling of the light hail landing on the windshield, with a backdrop of dusky autumn hues. Catching some Black Sabbath on the trusty satellite radio made all this even better.